Training camp has opened and one of the hot topics is the NBA's new ball. And let's just say, Shaq isn't the only one who's unhappy. Here's a sampling of the mixed reactions from around the league:
Get A Grip
While Shaquille O'Neal has criticized the new NBA basketball, Paul Pierce and Delonte West shrugged off the changes. "I think players are going to have to make an adjustment [to the ball]," Pierce said. "I've been playing with it all summer. At first, you're kind of hesitating, playing with [the ball] one way for so long. But that's the way it is.
"I made the adjustment over the summer and have no problem with it. You just have to get used to the new feel. It's a different type of grip, from leather to [microfiber composite]. It's like going from college to the pros once again." Said West: "I've played with balls that had no air in it with mud on them. It doesn't matter. It's got air in it and you've got a rim, so you should be able to shoot the basketball." -- Boston Globe
High-Tech NBA Ball Already Getting Panned
Guard Chris Duhon said the ball actually gets more slippery as it is used. ''It's hard to catch, hard to shoot and hard to get some type of grip on it,'' Duhon said. ''I don't think they tested it to when it was late in the game, everybody's sweaty and [it] puts a huge damp on the ball. That's something we've got to get used to, and you can't change it now. So that's something we have to work through.''
Coach Scott Skiles also is not a fan of the trademarked Cross Traxxion technology. ''I don't like it,'' Skiles said. ''I'm not sure if it's a situation where it's just going to take time to get used to it, or it's a bad ball. I'm a little mixed on that. As much as I've handled it, I don't seem to be getting used to it, but I played with the same ball my whole career. -- Chicago Sun-Times
Bulls Tackle Slippery Issue
"It's not very good, very slippery," said P.J. Brown. "When it gets wet with sweat, it's hard to handle. I don't like the texture of it. But what can you do? Everybody will go through the same thing." The new ball is a microfiber composite model rather than leather, and the league's first change in 35 years.
About the only Bull who didn't seem to mind it was Adrian Griffin, who toiled in the Continental Basketball Association. "That ball had the same material, but it was red, white and blue," Griffin said, smiling. "To me, this seems a little smaller in my hands with a little better grip. I like it." -- Chicago Tribune
Gripes Stick To New NBA Ball
Zydrunas Ilgauskas is among many NBA players who are confused about the league's decision to change the most important component of the game -- the basketball. "I don't like it," Ilgauskas said of the new basketball that will be used this season. "I'm not big on change, and I didn't think there was anything wrong with the old ball." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer
Gooden Likes New Ball, LeBron Wouldn't Buy It
Shaquille O'Neal said the NBA front-office employee who made the move should have his college degree revoked. Players have grumbled about the slickness of the ball. But not everyone. Cavs forward Drew Gooden is one of those who like the feel. "I can palm this ball a lot better than I could before; it is easier to grip,'' Gooden said. With one exception. "When it gets wet, it gets slick. It might have to be like Wimbledon. When they get wet, we'll have to get a ball boy to bounce a new one in.''
James said if he came across the ball in a store, he wouldn't buy it. But he's not complaining. "It has a fake leather material, but it's a basketball. I've probably played with 20,000 different ones in my life,'' James said. "I'll put it in the hole.'' -- Akron Beacon-Journal
New Ball Is All Wet
"As a kid going up through high school and then college, you dream about playing with that leather NBA basketball," Stackhouse said. "This new ball is the one I played with in the back yard when I was 12. "Nobody that ever played the game would want to change that ball. Nobody. Not Michael Jordan. Not Dr. J. Nobody." ... Point guard Devin Harris predicted sloppier games this season because of the ball. That's definitely not good news for a league that's tweaked the rules for years in an attempt to increase scoring while showcasing the best players in the world. "Once the ball gets wet, it's going to go everywhere," Harris said. "People going up for layups here are having the ball slip out. I think there's going to be more turnovers and lower shooting percentages."
Fellow point guard Jason Terry echoed Harris' sentiments. "I feel just like everybody else -- they stink," Terry said. "Everybody's against change. I've worked out with it all summer long, and I've grown accustomed to losing the ball out of bounds a couple times. It's going to happen. "Dirk had two or three layups [in practice], and they just popped right out of his hands." The dislike of the ball wasn't unanimous. Mavs coach Avery Johnson compared it to a volleyball because it feels smaller. Josh Howard said because of his small hands, the new ball is easier to palm. "I have no problem with it," Howard said. "A ball is a ball. Once you get going in that [shooting] groove, it's a wrap." Harris and Stackhouse suggested a football approach of periodically rotating in a dry ball. -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Review Mixed On NBA's Microfiber Ball
The Nuggets shot an NBA-worst 32.5 percent from three-point range. Now, they head into a season using a ball some believe will hamper shooting percentages. "Not really," Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony said when asked Wednesday at training camp at Fort Lewis College if he likes the league's new ball. "It feels like an outside ball I used to play with back in the day on the outside court. But we have no choice but to get used to it." ...
"I kind of agree with everything Shaq says," Nuggets forward Joe Smith said. "Once it gets wet, it gets slick. It's a totally different feel that's going to take some getting used to. I think the more and more we get into the season, there are going to be more complaints." But not everyone is complaining now. "You can grip (the new ball) a lot better than the old ball," Nuggets forward Eduardo Najera said. "I think it's better overall. It's not as hard as the other one was." -- Rocky Mountain News
New Basketball Has Few Fans
The growing consensus among players is that the new micro-fiber composite Spalding ball the league will use this season is, well, terrible. "Terrible," Rasheed Wallace said. "I don't know why they did it. The thing that (upsets) me about it is, that's a major part of playing, and you can't just change it without getting the players' opinions on the ball before you change it." ... "They say this micro-fiber thing is better? Nah, give me that old-fashioned cowhide," Wallace said.
Wallace, on a Nike commercial shoot in Los Angeles last week, said Steve Nash , Paul Pierce , Amare Stoudemire , Jermaine O'Neal , Shawn Marion and Kobe Bryant agreed. "We just don't see how they could change it without the players agreeing with it," Wallace said. No doubt that's something NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and the players' association will look into. In the meantime, there are no plans to reverse the change. ...
Not every player hates it. Chauncey Billups said he has gotten used to it. Flip Murray said he actually likes it. -- Detroit News
No Fun With New Ball
"It's a different ball," Vince Carter said yesterday of the ticky-tacky new micro-fiber models that make their debut this season. "It's not leather. A leather ball, when it gets wet, it's a little different. But I'm not [complaining] about it." ... Jason Kidd said there was nothing wrong with the old models. "They probably couldn't sell it," he said of the old leather balls. "It was an indoor ball. Not too many kids play inside. A lot of kids play outside, so maybe that was the reason." ...
Lawrence Frank scolded his team yesterday at the end of practice when he barked, "We don't complain about calls. We keep playing." The coach wants his team to take the same approach with the new balls. "The ball issues will take care of themselves," Frank said. "If they keep the ball in, then that's what we're playing with. So we're not going to make an excuse because of a ball. If that's the ball, we'll play with it, we'll do everything we can with that ball to win the game." -- New York Post
Sixers Among Players To Slam New Ball
"I've been using it all summer," the Sixers' Andre Iguodala said. "It just wears down after about 2 to 3 weeks. The ball used in the summer got old. Now, I'm back to the newer new ball and I haven't had a good experience with it so far. "I guess the only thing you can do is, the more you touch it, the better you are. I have one in my room [at the team's hotel]. I play with it every night for about an hour." ... "We're going to have to do it like baseball, change, like, every five plays," Chris Webber said. Once it gets wet, it's terrible; it's tough, put it that way." ...
"I'm not a big fan of the new ball," Willie Green said. "But it's what we've got to use. We might as well mentally prepare ourselves that this is the ball we're going to use for the season and deal with it. It's a little spongy. I'm used to the regular NBA ball. As scorer and shooter, I just like the other ball better. It went through the net better." ... "The good thing is, everybody's playing with the same ball," the Sixers' Alan Henderson said. "What can you say? There's nothing we can do about it. Maybe put a little extra rosin on our hands. When it's dry, you can get a really good grip on it." -- Philadelphia Daily News
Nash Struggles To Get A Handle
"It's very difficult for us," Steve Nash said. "It's almost like you have to relearn how to make your plays because this ball sticks to your hand whereas the old ball slid in your hand nicely and it had a nice little touch off the floor and the backboard. This ball just grips the floor and grips the backboard so you have to change your game. "You make moves in traffic and the ball gets stuck in parts of your hands and your wrist where normally it slides and you get it back the way you want it. Now, even if it's in your hand, it sticks and you can't get rid of it sometimes. It's a really difficult ball to play with." ...
"It sucks," Suns guard Raja Bell said. "This ball isn't even a cousin of the one we played with. In every way, the ball is totally different. It is round and we've got to put it out of our minds. It's proven to be a streaky ball." The Suns' other principal ball handler, Marcus Banks, is more indifferent about the ball and saw the good in the stronger hold when dry. But he'll miss how the other ball gripped on a sweaty hand. "This ball sticks all the time," Banks said. "We've got to learn to like it." ... "Everybody hates that ball," Shawn Marion said. "It seems like it's more for an outdoor ball than indoor. It doesn't even feel like a NBA ball." -- Arizona Republic
Blazers OK With New Ball
"I love it -- love it," point guard Jarrett Jack said. "A lot of guys who've been in the league for a while, they're used to a real leather ball. This is almost like a college ball to me. I'm more used to it." Added Joel Przybilla, like O'Neal a veteran center: "I like it because I can palm it. I've got small hands, and I could barely palm the old ball, and this one is a little more sticky." -- The Oregonian
Mixed Feelings About New Ball
Sonics guard Ray Allen understands the criticisms, but he declined to take sides on the issue, as did most Sonics. "Well, it is a little tougher to shoot," he said. "As big as our hands are, the ball is a lot softer and we can all palm it pretty easily. The discrepancy from one ball to the next is not that different, so each ball pretty much maintains the same feel and integrity. "But when it gets wet, it's probably a little more slippery." So is that a criticism or an endorsement? "I don't make it an issue because it doesn't matter to me," Allen said. -- Seattle Times
NBA's Ball Doesn't Bug Sloan
"You know," coach Jerry Sloan said, "all 30 teams have to play with it." ... Sloan did concede "it just seems strange, because I've been around the other ball so long." But, forward Matt Harpring said, "in a couple years it will be a non-issue." "Really, it's totally different," Harpring said. "But it's just something we've got to get used to." The biggest difference, according to Harpring: "It's stickier sometimes -- but slippery sometimes too." Harpring learned that when one of the new balls was shipped to him during the offseason -- a gift the league sent every player this past summer. Sloan, though, did not have one mailed to him. Not that he's about to go 'round and 'round complaining about that. "I don't know what I'd do with it," the 64-year-old Jazz coach said. "I can't bounce it anymore." -- Deseret Morning News
Thumbs Down For New Ball
Gilbert Arenas and several other Wizards are among the NBA players who do not like the league's new synthetic basketballs. Manufactured by Spalding, they are made of a microfiber composite rather than leather and are supposed to provide a better grip. However, Arenas is not a fan. "The only thing good about it is that it's grippy when you first touch it," Arenas said.
"Once it starts soaking up sweat, it gets slippery. Guys are going to be turning the ball over like crazy this year because you can't hold on to the ball. They're going to have to play with at least three balls because as soon as a ball hits someone, that ball is dead." -- Washington Post